Review Crew: Handwriting Without Tears K Level

Have you ever taught handwriting with manipulatives?  Yes, handwriting can be more than just copying endless lines of letters!  You can actively teach handwriting!

Handwriting without Tears Logo

Handwriting Without Tears is a handwriting program that uses hands-on methods to teach handwriting, thus reducing stress, frustration, and tears.  The program incorporates music, wooden letters, a chalk board, play-doh, and black and white workbooks to teach letter formation.  The program stresses a proper pencil grip and proper letter formation that will help stop letter reversals. 

What is included?
We were able to review the Handwriting Without Tears Level K.  Our box arrived with the Student Workbook and Teacher’s Guide.

HWOT Kindergarten Teacher's Guide

Kindergarten Teacher’s Guide retails for $9.25.  This guide is nearly 200 pages!  It was so much thicker than I expected.

  • The first section of the guide explains the teaching philosophy of Handwriting Without Tears.  This section also talks about the different components available to use with the program (such as the wooden letters and letter chalkboard).  These components can be purchased separately.

  • The second section of the guide explains each workbook page, with teaching instructions and activity ideas.  For example, on the page with capital “D” the instructions are to demonstrate the correct formation of the letter on a chalkboard or marker board, then use the letter pieces to make the letter, and trace the capital letter in the workbook.  The guide then instructs you to guide the student in copying the letter on their workbook page.  The last section instructs the student to color the dog picture on the page, possibly adding a dog house or a bone.  At the bottom of the page are ideas to link other subjects to the letter studied (like math or language arts).  On this page the activity was to list words that rhyme with dog; therefore, linking this activity with language arts.

  • The last portion of the guide contains a teaching schedule, remediation tips, and an index.  The teaching schedule is a daily grid-Monday through Friday.  On each day the page numbers, letters, activities, and letter stories to be taught are listed.  The schedule contains 36 weeks of instruction.

  • There is also a section of the website for those who use the program.  This section can only be accessed with the password on the back of the Teacher’s Guide.  This section has music clips to songs that accompany the program.  There is also a printable template for the wooden letters.  The online section also has numerous videos which demonstrate the teaching strategies in the program.

HWOT Kindergarten Workbook

 Letters and Numbers for Me retails for $8.25.

This workbook has letter and number practice with simple black and white pictures on each page.  The book also contains short words and sentences to copy.  It also introduces simple punctuation such as periods, question marks, and exclamation points.

How did we use this product?
We did not have the interactive package so I did not have all the “extras” with the program.
However, we cut out some lines and curves with colored cardstock and used those in place of wooden letters.  (The template is provided on the website under the password protected Home Link section.)

We also used small rectangular white boards to practice letter formation, rather than the chalkboard suggested.

I used the video section of the Home Link to help me prepare to teach the lessons.  It made the material so much more understandable for me!

I ordered an extra K book for Bee so that Tiger and Bee could work on the K program together.

We worked on handwriting a little bit each day with both Tiger and Bee.  For the first week we worked on pencil grip and making lines and shapes on paper.  Then we progressed into the letters section.  Tiger and Bee loved building the letters with the cardstock cut outs.

We also enjoyed listening to some of the songs on the website to help with letter formation.  Who knew you could sing along with your handwriting program?!

The kids also enjoyed building “Mat Man” with the letter pieces.  We built him in almost every practice session.  Tiger loved his big ears!  We also had many drawing sessions in which they would draw pictures of Mat Man to practice making curves and lines.  Mat Man even had his own theme song to the tune of “Batman.”  “Na na na na Mat Man!!”  The kids still don’t know that the true words to that song and they think I’m brilliant for coming up with our own theme song……….if only they knew!!!!

What didn’t we like?
 The Teacher’s Manual is really large!  The information was very overwhelming at first.  I had to read through the intro section multiple times before I started.  It was only with the online videos that I felt more confident in teaching the material.  It is definitely not an open-and-go program. 

I also didn’t feel the manual was organized very well.  The first section has capitals, then lower case letters, then the pages about copy words, then the numbers section.  However, you don’t necessarily teach the program in this order if you follow the instructions in the teaching guide.  And the teaching guide is in the very, very back!  Did you know that I worked with the program for over a week before I realized that there was a daily guide in the very back??  It would have been so helpful if I had read it FIRST!  I was teaching the program straight through the teacher’s manual, not knowing that I was supposed to be teaching some of the numbers at the same time as the capital letters.  The guide also lists the pages for the letter stories to go along with the teaching.  I missed those at first too!

A lot of the information is geared to teaching a large class so I ignored the classroom style information to adapt it to a home setting.

The program has so many components.  This can be a huge help to some who need the hands on and the various approaches.  But I was finding that our handwriting time was taking forever!  I started to cut back on what we did each day so we wouldn’t be spending over 30 minutes just on handwriting time.  Also, if you purchased all the components with the program, it can add up quickly.  I was glad I could make my own for some of the extras.

There is a lot included in the program that it is very overwhelming in the beginning.  It was hard for me to feel confident in getting started, knowing what components to add in and which to skip, and making sure we covered the activities in a logical order.  So, the intimidation factor in getting started made me a little nervous. 

The book uses two lines to write on.  The student makes their letters in between those two lines with tall letters going above the second line.  I didn’t like that this is not standard handwriting paper.  At no other time would my kids be writing on paper like this.  If they did write on real lined notebook paper, they would need to stay in between the two lines, and not have letters going above those lines.

I can’t say the handwriting is very “pretty.”  Some of the letter and number formations are a little odd-especially the number six which is made with a straight line down and a small loop at the bottom.  Most sixes I’ve seen have a curved line at the top with a loop at the bottom. 

What did we like?
I loved the guide that had the lesson plans scheduled out in a daily grid.  Without it I was hopelessly lost!  I wish the guide was in the beginning of the book and that I had found it first!

The kids loved the letter pieces and enjoyed writing on the marker board.  They liked the hands on components when I only used a few things per lesson.

They enjoyed the simplicity of the workbook and the fact that there was a letter to copy, then the space to copy it.  Then there was another letter example, and another space to copy it.  They needed the constant models throughout the books.

The songs were a fun added component.  My kids love anything that has music!

I appreciated that the book had some practice writing on traditional handwriting paper-3 lined paper with the middle line being a dashed line.  Since most writing paper for young students in done in this format, I was glad that they had some exposure to it.

I love that the program has students copying short words and sentences and introduces punctuation.  There were also so many tips to tie the lesson into other subjects with some fun activity ideas.  

What did we think overall?
The program was fun and did live up to its name.  We had no tears while using it.  The kids didn’t complain about handwriting time and they were remembering how to form letters.  However, I think I would prefer a more traditional handwriting program with more traditional looking letters.  My kids are not resistant to handwriting and would rather get their lessons finished so they could play.  I think I’ll continue to use the books to let them have extra practice but we will switch to a traditional program when we reach cursive as I don’t care for the cursive font used by this program.

However, if a student was struggling with pencil grip, reversing letters, or was very resistant to handwriting, then this is the program to use to get them writing!  The hands on components are fun and there is something for every learning style included.  With all the teaching helps you can design a program that will work for your student.


See more reviews of Handwriting Without Tears on the Crew Blog!

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. 

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